Disney Cruise Line at the D23 Expo 2013
The Walt Disney Company just held its third biennial fan convention – the D23 Expo 2013 – and the Disney Cruise Line was there to promote the upcoming Disney Magic refurbishment.
At the 2011 expo, a panel discussion and elaborate exhibit anticipated the since launched Disney Fantasy, the line’s newest cruise ship. The schedule this year was surprisingly void of such a panel, but regarding what’s in store for the Disney Magic, the line’s very first vessel, Disney’s fun floor display and our opportunity to exclusively interview Imagineer Joe Lanzisero were worthy substitutes.
Plus, we gathered some great behind-the-scenes information and tidbits on what we can expect from the line in the future. (You can click on any of the included images to enlarge them.)
The Disney Magic Refurbishment
A lot has already come out online highlighting the new features that are planned for the Disney Magic when she goes in for drydock in September 2013, but in more recent news, it was announced that Captain America will be joining the ship as a costumed character when it reemerges.
In fact, the main focus of the cruise line’s exhibit at the D23 Expo 2013 was Marvel Avengers Academy, a new children’s play area and program inspired from the hit film. It was here that Captain America made photo appearances throughout the convention and display boards showcased concept art and playful notes from the ship’s redesign process.
Joe Lanzisero, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering – the master design department for Disney properties worldwide – and lead ‘helmsman’ of all Disney Cruise Line projects, graciously appeared for a video interview with Popular Cruising to dig a little deeper into the Disney Magic plans. As a Disney fanboy and once aspiring Imagineer myself, this was truly a treat.
During our discussion, Joe outlines the challenges and opportunities of redesigning a fan favorite to enhance it without altering its essence. We consider the ship’s wealth of new features, infrastructure, safety and stabilization, as well as the daunting task of completing the drydock in just five weeks time.
You can view our fully illustrated video interview right here:
Disney Cruise Line Design
The cruise line gems of the D23 Expo 2013 were the panels celebrating this year’s 60th anniversary of Walt Disney Imagineering. Joe Lanzisero was on hand for two of them and shared a number of insights into the fascinating Disney Cruise Line design process. At “The Craft of Creativity” panel, he was asked what his focus is when working on the fleet of Disney cruise ships, and he had the following to say:
“I always default to what is going to be entertaining. What is it about this space, this ride, whatever the experience is, that is going to have some emotional connection to the guest. For me that was the big challenge on the cruise ship because they were lounges and staterooms. Some were easier to find that emotional connection because like with the kids spaces, you could introduce Disney characters.
“For me, it’s always about kind of boiling down the essence of what it is that people love about Disney, and I think it’s the story. And it’s having some emotional connection to it. Sometimes our stories are more of a subtext for us as designers. We use the story to make choices. We filter our choices through them, and then hopefully when it all comes out and the guests walk through, it becomes this cohesive piece like a French champagne bar.
“We talked about utilizing materials and the things that would be there and maybe sometimes going as deep as creating characters that might have been proprietors – not that necessarily the guests are going to see it. But we talk about the characters and such and then they become a filter too. What would they do to create this kind of space. So, bottom line for me is always thinking about the entertainment.”
Disney Cruise Line Whimsy
Another Imagineering panel, “Leave ’em Laughing,” centered around Disney’s signature use of humor throughout the company’s theme parks as well as its cruise ships. During the discussion, show writer and producer at Imagineering, Jason Surrell, reminisced about writing the first 30 seconds of material for comedian Jerry Seinfeld at the New York christening of the Disney Fantasy.
Jerry’s hilarious line, which I had the great pleasure of seeing delivered on stage from the front row at the event, went like this: “I’m on a boat! Finally I get a chance to see what the end of my career will be like!” After briefly scanning the elegant show lounge onboard, he added, “And you know what? It isn’t so bad!”
Joe Lanzisero then continued to present the elevator artwork that surrounds the glass cars as they slip through the stateroom decks. He described the overall treatment as the line’s lighthearted “stretching room,” in reference to the dark humor counterparts found in the Haunted Mansion theme park attractions. He gave credit to Imagineering animation director, George Scribner, for the clever pieces’ ability to be revealed and experienced narratively while either ascending or descending. As fate would have it, George has also been commissioned by the Panama Canal Authority to document the canal expansion with his oil paintings.
Attendees also got a rare glimpse at many unused concepts for the fleet’s stern character tableaus. Eventually, Goofy made his way to the back of the Disney Magic, and Donald made it onboard the Disney Wonder. When it came to choosing a character design for the Disney Dream, 3 or 4 teammates came up with the same idea for Sorcerer Mickey and the dancing brooms, and Joe believes “if more than one or two people come up with the same idea simultaneously or within a couple days of each other, I think it’s the right idea.”
Lastly at the “Leave ’em Laughing” panel, Joe Lanzisero shared how he inherited a great water slide project for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy‘s top decks and how he felt it needed something funny or a good name to improve it even further. As the story goes, he enlisted Kevin Rafferty, Senior Concept Writer at Imagineering, to work on a name, who then came back with dozens, and of course, the chosen finalist was “AquaDuck.”
This name then prompted the team to cast Donald Duck as the lead and his precocious nephews – Huey, Dewey and Louie – as the supposed designers and builders of the master slide. The story is illustrated with storyboards onboard, but one gag in particular sells it: Donald Duck himself catapulted from the slide into one of the ship’s smoke stacks. In fact, the mold in which the figure was cast was borrowed from Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a Walt Disney World theme park attraction where Donald is similarly humiliated.
Disney Cruise Line Future
So, with all of this great stuff already at play and lined up for the Disney Cruise Line, what else can we expect? Well, I asked Joe Lanzisero about that, and he told me a number of things are under development. However, understandably, he could not disclose any specifics at this time. For starters, updates to the Walt Disney Theater and new shows are in the works. During a conference call just before D23 Expo 2013, music composer Alan Menken, said a production based on the Disney animated film Tangled is being developed that may or may not make it to the stage.
The most likely next step for the cruise line will be a similar redesign for the Disney Wonder, the second ship in the fleet, and when asked about that one, Joe said that there are plans in the works. So stay tuned. That ship may too be seeing the addition of the AquaDunk and Animation Magic dinner show soon enough, but at the same time, Disney likes to differentiate its individual ships with unique features. No matter what happens, we’re sure to still be surprised and delighted.
For more information on the redesigned Disney Magic, visit the Disney Cruise Line website here.
What do you think about all the things the Disney Cruise Line has lined up? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below…
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: DISNEY CRUISE LINE